International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ welcomes Japanese space agency as latest member

17 February 2005

The International Charter 'Space and Major Disasters' yesterday welcomed the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) as its newest member, establishing a network of international space partners in disaster management that now encircles the globe.

JAXA Executive Director Yoji Furuhama signed the Charter in Brussels, Belgium, in the presence of European Space Agency (ESA) Director of Earth Observation Programmes Volker Liebig, Canadian Space Agency (CSA) President Marc Garneau, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) Chairman G. Madhavan Nair and Argentine Space Agency (CONAE) Executive Director Conrado Franco Varotto. The event took place during the European Union's Earth and Space Week and the Third Earth Observation Summit.

JAXA Executive Director Furuhama and ESA Earth Observation Director Volker Liebig

"The Charter is an excellent example of international cooperation in the field of natural disasters, as has recently been demonstrated in connection with the tsunami in South Asia", commented Volker Liebig after the ceremony.

The International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’ is a joint effort to put space technology at the service of rescue authorities in the event of a major disaster. Each member agency has demonstrated its commitment to using space technology to serve humankind when it is most in need of assistance—when disasters of both natural and human origin strike the world’s communities or wreak havoc on the environment. To date, the Charter has been activated more than 70 times.

Most recently, the Charter was invoked after the South Asian tsunami of 26 December to cover three different disaster-stricken zones along the coasts of southern India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Thailand. Charter members contributed an estimated 200 satellite images, providing essential information where access to the affected areas was neither easy nor immediate.

Sri Lanka
Post-disaster satellite map of Sri Lanka

The images were used as base maps for assessing damage to infrastructures and coastal habitations; for measuring the extent of sea surge; and for selecting localities where emergency aid was most needed.

With JAXA's addition, disaster management authorities will now have access to scores of Japanese satellite data archives. Japan's soon-to-be-launched Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) will also join the constellation of Earth observation satellites that form the core the Charter's space-based resources.

"We are proud to have JAXA join its space partners in supporting the Disaster Charter, particularly since the Charter has so recently proven the relevance of space in alleviating human suffering caused by natural and technological disasters," said CSA President Marc Garneau.

Following the UNISPACE III conference held in Vienna, Austria in July 1999, the European and French space agencies (ESA and CNES) initiated the International Charter ‘Space and Major Disasters’, with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) signing the Charter on 20 October 2000. Other members include the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Argentine Space Agency (CONAE).

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